This, the second of 6 articles, comments on the last 38 verses of the first chapter of The Yoga Sutras. The first 13 verses noted that Yoga is the stilling of the fluctuations of the consciousness, and explained what the fluctuations are and the principles required to still them.
This practice of stilling the consciousness, when rooted, results in a transformation of one's personality and behaviour. You need to practice with devotion, without any distraction and over many lifetimes. However, the Yoga Sutra discusses two means to still the mind: the traditional step by step approach and the fast easy track obtained through the procedure of surrendering your body, mind and heart to God ("Ishvara Pranidhana"). The Yoga Sutra was written 2500 years ago when the first route was still possible because obstacles to religious devotion were less and the world was a tranquil place with mankind having patience. Which person today is prepared to sit and meditate for decade after decade, and which person will have an active peaceful happy and intelligent mind at the end of this period? Nowadays only by enlisting God's help will you succeed in the objectives of yoga practice as outlined in the Yoga Sutra.
With the traditional path one needs to be or become non-attached to worldly things, pleasures, happiness and health. With the alternative path discussed in the Yoga Sutra, you need to become attached to God (which in turn means that you become less attached to the world).
The end experience of Yoga is Samadhi, Yogic trance. One whilst conscious departs from the world of dream and ordinary reality and gains an understanding of the ultimate reality (God or God's laws) through one of four methods: analysis, meditation, joy and feeling at one with oneself. Followers of the traditional path have direct perception of their Soul but will not see God. Followers of Ishvara Pranidhana experience a fifth type of Samadhi.
With yogic experiences, one develops deep faith in yoga. Experience of God and the laws of God bring total faith in yoga.
What does surrender of oneself to God mean? It means doing everything that He/She wants you to do. The yoga sutra states that if you surrender to God, He/She will grant you an ability to voluntarily experience Samadhi. It is only the one Ultimate God, not any God, who has the power to confer this boon on you.
It should perhaps be noted here that of the six classical systems of Indian philosophy, only yoga philosophy incorporates God. Indian philosophers since the beginning of the Kali yug age around 2500 BC have become increasingly atheistic in outlook. This trend has of course now been followed into modern society. Few, if any, human beings have absolute faith in God, nor perfect lack of faith, as noted in the second chapter.
The Yoga Sutra then proceeds to define God. He is a distinct Soul un-affected by afflictions, actions, their results and the various impressions resulting from actions. God, as the ultimate creator of all, naturally suffers when He/She sees Selves and Souls suffering. He has unsurpassed omniscience and is the ultimate cause of everything in the universe. In comparison to God there are no other sacred teachers. His teaching does not vary with time, other teachers teach according to their age, development etc. The Hindu scriptures describe in detail the characteristics of God.
God is heard and can sometimes be seen by His sign 'Om' (pronounced AUM). Om has a soothing effect and a magical effect on you.
Lord Patanjali next gives those students of yoga who have peace of mind a mental discipline with which to progress along their path. This is constant repetition of Om with feeling (i.e. contemplation on God) (not mechanical chanting). He notes that all the fundamental impediments to yoga practice (disease, sluggishness, doubt, carelessness, idleness, sense gratification, living in illusion, lack of perseverance, and inability to maintain the achieved progress) disappear with chanting of Om. The four accompanying distractions of pain and sorrow, despair and dejection, tremor of body and shakiness, and laboured breathing also disappear.
Aside from the chanting of Om, Lord Patanjali also gives the student a number of supplementary religious practices:
Cultivation of friendliness, compassion, joy and indifference concerning the happiness, misery, virtues and the vices of your fellow man.
By exhalation and retention, rather than inhalation (part of "Pranayama", the fourth stage of yoga)
Contemplation of the perceptions of the sense organs.
Seeing the sorrowless white Light of the Supreme (i.e. God).
Practicing consciousness of a sense object, but remaining devoid of desires for this object.
By gaining knowledge of and holding attention on the changeover from a state of dreaming to a state of sleep. (Whereas for most of us the task of being aware of the changeover from dreaming to wakening might be manageable, this sutra asks us to move to a next level. In other words, becoming aware (and much more than aware) of the changeover from the dream state to the state of deep sleep. Only someone who has mastered Pranayama is able to do this).
Meditating on anything as per one's desire. It should be noted that a person who is qualified to be practising yoga in accordance with the method of this first chapter will not have strange meditation desires.
The first step needed before the fluctuations of the consciousness can be stilled is for the mind to become stable and these practices help you to achieve that.
The Yoga Sutras then proceed to talk about different types of yogic trance. Yogic trance leads not to dullness but to truth and perfect wisdom.